. For the moment, Royals manager Ned Yost can count just two certainties in his club’s batting order this season. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain will bat third, while first baseman Eric Hosmer will bat fourth. The rest, he says, remains a fluid proposition.
"We haven’t even begun to settle on a lineup yet," Yost said on Saturday morning.
The Royals will conduct internal meetings to discuss the lineup and other roster questions in the coming weeks, Yost said. But for now, he remains noncommittal about how the batting order might look when the club opens the season against the Minnesota Twins on April 3.
"We do it in a lot of different ways," Yost said. "We get input from our analytical people. We get input from our eyes. We get input from the coaches before we sit down and decide as a group what our best lineup is going to be."
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Still, there are hints of a framework falling into place. Third baseman Mike Moustakas spent parts of the last two seasons as the club’s No. 2 hitter and appears slotted for that spot again. If Moustakas bats second, that could leave the leadoff spot open for left fielder Alex Gordon, who has occupied that role in the past and offers solid on-base skills.
The Royals do not possess a traditional leadoff hitter — though the definition of traditional leadoff skills has evolved over time — so the role could come down to a small group of players.
The club could consider shortstop Alcides Escobar for the role, or turn to the player that emerges from the competition at second base, a battle between Whit Merrifield, Christian Colon, Raul Mondesi and Cheslor Cuthbert. Neither option would be ideal. Escobar’s on-base percentage has hovered below .295 in three of the last four seasons. The Royals could field a rotation of some sort at second base as the season begins, leaving the leadoff spot to a committee of players.
If the Royals seek consistency and continuity, that could leave Gordon as the most attractive choice, especially after a strong performance this spring. Gordon entered Saturday batting .412 (14 for 34) with a .474 on-base percentage in 12 games in the Cactus League. The performance has helped soothe concerns after the veteran left fielder batted just .220 with a .312 on-base percentage last season.
Gordon was in the leadoff spot against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday, a role he has held for much of camp. Yost says the club is simply looking for ways to get Gordon more at-bats during the spring.
"We just want to get him going," Yost said. "But he’s been swinging the bat great. He looks great. We haven’t even discussed the lineup yet in terms of who’s going to lead off. We’ll do that as a staff here down the road a little bit."